Quantifying product life cycle impacts for the apparel industry

With qualitative sustainability indicators already established, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition wanted to work to quantify product life cycle impacts in a standardized way. To assist with this effort, the non-profit group developed a PCR Guidance document, and PRé helped with the review process.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition: Apparel impacts across the globe

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is a non-profit, industry-wide group of more than 100 leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers, nonprofits, and NGOs. The organization is dedicated to reducing the social and environmental impacts of apparel and footwear products across the globe.

The Higg Index: A practical self-assessment tool

The primary product of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is the Higg Index,a suite of tools designed to help companies assess their social and environmental performance at the brand, facility, and product levels. The index is a qualitative, practical, self-assessment tool. It is comprised of yes-no questions, such as do you measure and track your greenhouse gas emissions.

Measuring product life cycle impacts through PCRs

But the Sustainable Apparel Coalition wanted to do more. “Our members also wanted a shared methodology and a shared approach for measuring product life cycle impacts,” explained Amy Horton, collaboration project manager at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. From talks with members about how to potentially bring quantitative analysis to the index, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition decided to focus on Product Category Rules (PCR).

Yet as those in the LCA community know, creating PCRs across an industry requires careful planning, to rule out duplication and potential errors. So the non-profit decided to first create a PCR Guidance document, with the help of Rita Schenck, executive director at the Institute for Environmental Research and Education.

Avoiding duplication: The importance of PCR Guidance

The PCR Guidance document contains 80 or 90 methodological questions that users would tackle when creating a PCR. The questions would be common across all categories, an umbrella document that explained how to create a PCR rule and what the impact categories and scope would be, among other concerns.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition turned to PRé to review the PCR Guidance document. After issuing an RFP, the organization reviewed a number of respondents, evaluating their expertise and knowledge of footwear and apparel supply chains. “Overall the PRé team was globally representative and had relevant experience,” said Horton.

The purpose of the review was to ensure that the Sustainable Apparel Coalition had created a PCR Guidance document that was in line with the best practices currently available. PRé also examined the impact categories and methods selected.

PCR guidance assists in quicker, more efficient PCR creation

A working group convened to discuss PRé’s edits. And though the organization chose not to make every change suggested, Horton said that, “the recommendations for the report overall made it clearer and sharper.”

With the review of the PCR Guidance document complete, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition has now moved onto creating PCRs. Thus far, the organization has created three PCRs based on the report. One for T-shirts, one for coats and jackets, and one for slacks and shorts. Thanks to the efficacy of the PCR Guidance document, the creation process for the PCRs was relatively easy for the organization. “The guidance document enabled the creation of PCRs more quickly,” Horton said.

For more on the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the PCR Guidance document, visit the website of Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

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